The Life of Bikes

Today I fixed the Rain Bike, and I got to thinking about how it became the rain bike and what would happen to it next.

When I was a junior there was an old guy in my club who wore mid-length socks ten years before Lance did.  He had calves the thickness of my torso hewn from teak and forearms so hairy they threatened to eat his watch.  He rolled around in the middle of the pack come race time, happily opening gaps for me, calling the race, telling me this would be where it’d go in a lap or three’s time and he’d be right nine times out of ten, and then some time around ten miles he’d gracefully slide out back and meander to the finish on a beautiful pearlescent off-white Daccordi with blue Benotto tape and a matching Rolls saddle.  The sound it made is what I remember the most…it ticked, like the kind of Swiss watch that thinks a Rolex is nothing more than a Casio for a rich man’s blind son.

Later, although still back when Pinarello still made metal frames – still made anything, actually, before they became a design house for an identikit factory in Taiwan, back when you could send them back your twenty-year old frame and the craftsmen who’d made it would renovate and paint it just as you want as nobody else could or ever will again – back then, right at the end of back then to put a time on it, I stumbled upon the frame of the Rain Bike.

It wasn’t the Rain Bike back then, obviously.

In the pantheon of Pinarellos, it was a relatively humble model – the Galileo, although not so humble that Alex Zulle wouldn’t ride one in the tour that year.  It was pearlescent white, with an electric blue fade just the same shade as that Benotto tape.  The amount of money that changed hands was significant enough to ensure that I committed a cardinal sin right off the bat – then, and ever since, it’s worn Shimano rather than the campy which should have been its birthright – one of the last generations of the polished chorus or records – that would have suited it to a tee.

But it never mattered then, and doesn’t now.  It’s always felt special.  I still look at it and see beauty, although these days too, there’s also a wry humour that something so – old, for want of a better word – should still be part of my life, and I question whether that must mean that I’m clinging onto something far surpassed, an anchor, and I wonder just how much longer it’ll be before it dies, or the current number one slides down a step and it sits in the corner, forlorn and unridden, and what will happen to it then.

I could strip it down and wax it, hang it on the wall, and watch visitors to my house edge away as I start to bore the arse off them with meaningless anecdotes of the insignificant and generally unremarkable life of a bicycle.  They might realize just how sad I really am.

I could do the same, but hang it in the garage – a private shrine.  But then it’d be in the company of all the other bikes, and it’d feel bad because they all had parts and it didn’t, and then I’d feel that and put some on it and then we’d be right back to square one.

I could turn it into garden art, or an interesting lamp, and that’d be a crime akin to turning a classic Aston Martin into a potting shed, or wiring up a turntable to listen to all the vinyl you’ve still got stored away that was never quite good enough to beg, steal or borrow in digital form, that never gets played on the radio, because they just don’t make ’em like they used to, and the reason they don’t do that is because the way they used to make ’em was … shit.

Inevitably, the best course of action seems to me to be the one that answers most calls in my life:  do nothing.  Let it have that corner.  Maybe one day there’ll be a l’eroica for nineties alloy, or something more fitting for the period – a ride of some sort preceded by a group jacking up of horse steroids round the back of a public toilet.  Then one day I’ll die, and someone’ll come to clean out the shed and find it under a layer of dust and grime, and the scratches and the nicks and the wear and the little things that speak of love once lavished will tell the story of our lives and trials together more eloquently than I could ever manage – and maybe they’ll wonder at the heroics that must have taken place right here, opine about how if these things could speak what stories they could tell, perhaps recollect Grandad having one that looked kinda similar.

Then, and only then, will they pronounce it worn beyond all hope of reasonable salvage, then chuck it in the skip right next to the record player and the Vanilla Ice b-sides box set.

I can’t imagine a better way to go.

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